General Mills introduced a pea protein-based bar line under its Cascadian Farm brand this year.

DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS — European and North American consumers continue to remain interested in getting more protein into their diet, according to Innova Market Insights. The market research firm said the trend is driven by weight management trends and the move of sports and performance products into the mainstream market.

Innova Market Insights data indicate that nearly 3% of global food and beverage launches in the 12 months ended 31 March, 2014, were marketed on a “high-protein” or “source-of-protein” positioning, rising to 6% in the United States.

Demand for whey protein, specifically, is soaring as a result of growing demand in certain Asian markets, as well as its rising popularity as a natural, healthy ingredient, particularly in sports, medical and infant nutrition, and in weight management, according to Innova. While vegetables lead the list for the number of published protein patents in food and drinks, whey has risen from eighth position in 2012 to third position in 2013. At the same time, the number of nut and seed protein patents also has risen sharply, from single figures in 2012 to more than 200 in 2013. There also has been strong activity in patent actions relating to algae-derived proteins.

“The time is right for protein innovation,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights.

Kraft Foods developed its P3 line of packaged cheese, meat and nuts in response to heightened consumer demand for protein-rich snacks.

She cited several additional trend drivers, including a global rise in the incidence of sarcopenia among older adults and the economic and environmental costs of existing protein sources.

“Proteins have diverse application potential, with opportunities for alternative vegetarian options, and new protein sources — such as microalgae — alongside existing and novel dairy-based and vegetable sources, such as soy, beans and grains,” Ms. Williams said.

Innova’s data supports comments made during the past few months by food and beverage executives who have made capitalizing on the rising interest in protein a priority.

On May 21, for example, Donnie Smith, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark., said his company is going to expand its efforts around protein innovation.

“Protein is a very important category,” Mr. Smith said. “So we expect protein to continue to take a more prominent role in people’s diets. We see opportunities for innovation to put protein in more affordable and convenient forms for our consumers. The fact is we’re going to go where the consumer takes us and we’ve got the capability and the flexibility to meet changing consumer needs and their expectations.”